Barring pre-Hero Bölzer, I’ve never seen a band without a full-length generate as much passion as Sadistic Intent. The southern California death metal band formed in 1987 and have released little more than four EPs in their career, yet they’re still earning high slots at festivals and seem to be adored by a lot of people. It’s a testament to the quality of their music, I suppose, and I must admit their musty take on early Morbid Angel has tickled my fancy on more than one occasion. Yet their sporadic and limited output generates an obvious demand for more music in the style, and that’s where Infernal Conjuration come in. Formed in 2006 by guitarist and vocalist Emmanuel Luna (Mortuary, ex-Infinitum Obscure) this Mexican trio garnered both positive reception and multiple comparisons to Intent with 2014’s Death Has Appeared… EP. Infernale Metallum Mortis is the group’s first full-length and may just be the strongest death metal debut of the year so far.
Conjuration essentially sound like the wilder cousin of Intent. Much like them, the guitars here are volatile and diverse, incorporating all manner of death metal riffing styles with a little thrash influence to boot. “Profound Immortality” and “Demonic Possession” are some of the hardest hitters and sound like lost B-sides from Morbid Angel‘s Altars of Madness with their fiery chords and hammering tempos. “Immortality” elevates itself further with a midsection of squealing leads and abrupt riffs that swirl together like a maelstrom of souls. It’s clear Luna is a talented guitarist with no shortage of ideas, as is further evidenced by the crunchy motherfucker of a riff that propels the first minute of “Infernal Conjuration” or the eerie doom leads that open “Cleansed in Asphyxia.”
The way these songs constantly morph from one riff to the next while remaining wholly coherent makes me imagine this less as an album and more like some pulsating, gelatinous organism that should not exist but is somehow lurking amidst the old toy boxes in your attic. Adding to this effect are the loose, relentless rhythms and a few moments where Conjuration sound a bit weirder than their primary influences. Both “Necrolatria” and opener “Dreadful Knowledge” have prominent riffs which accentuate a warbling final note or chord, resulting in an otherworldly effect that reminds me of Blood Incantation. The whole album has a sense of brooding, mysterious evil that brings to mind South American bands like Mortem, an effect furthered by Luna’s dank and menacing rasp.
The band even manage to work in some hooks amidst the madness, with aforementioned “Asphyxia” and “Possession” featuring prominent shouts of the track title that emerge from their riffy substrate. Sadly the quality of songs deteriorates a bit in Metallum‘s second half. While penultimate track “Tremendous Plague” has a bit of an early Possessed feel, it’s definitely less engaging than the songs that precede it. Closer “Ultimatum” is even worse and seems to pass by without note on every listen. Fortunately the production works well, with dry, crisp drums and fiery guitars which have an odd “spongy” quality that adds to the unsettling feel.
Though it definitely looses steam near the end, I still have no qualms declaring Metallum one of the best death metal albums I’ve heard this year so far. Infernal Conjuration deliver a veritable onslaught of riffs while conjuring a palpable atmosphere and capturing it all in songs that never go off the rails despite the high number of ideas contained within. I once heard someone describe Skelethal‘s debut as being “like the Sadistic Intent album we never got,” and while I’d agree to some extent, that comparison seems far more appropriate for this album. While we may never know if this is as good as a Sadistic Intent full-length would be, Infernale Metallum Mortis is sure to delight both their fanbase and anyone else in the market for fiery, thrashy, and unearthly death metal.